Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Twelve Apostles

There are probably five or six mandatory things in Australia that you need to see, if you should ever make the trip.

One of those, is the Twelve Apostles, along the southern coast, four hours south of Melbourne.

This is probably a fifteen hour trip if you drive yourself, or twelve hours with some with bus deal.

My personal advice is if you can find an individual guide....hire them, and pay the extra money because they know the twenty-odd things along the way which makes this a once-in-a-lifetime day.

Shortly after you pass Torquay, you end up on the coastal road.  It's a two-laner, which weaves around the coastal region and passes through small towns which specialize as magnets for tourists.

The beaches are mostly deserted and you can pull off at any point and just stand there on a million-dollar beach with just pure wind blowing in your face.  It's not a hot climate kind of place....like Florida and you probably can only wear shorts there for two months out of the year.

Down about four hours into the drive....you will reach Great Otway National Park, which features a rain forest type environment and worth an hour's stop to walk through a local trail (free).

Around 275 kilometers into the trip, you will finally arrive at the Twelve Apostles.....a formation along the coast which has an observation deck area.  Plenty of parking and a rest-room.  You might want to note that there is a sign along the walk-way suggesting SNAKES.  They wouldn't put that up, unless there really were snakes....so just be aware of that fact.

It's the kind of stop that you might want to spend a good long hour there because you will never see something like this again.

I might suggest to drive on west to Port Campbell (20 min away), have some dinner, and try to drive north through the farm country, to reach A1 where you can ride at fair speed back to Melbourne.  In December through February, the sun doesn't really go down till 9PM.....so enjoy the back country and hills.

I'd strongly recommend you start the trip by 7AM and just hope by 10PM that you make it back to the hotel in town.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Carly Solution

Carly Fiorina as Cruz's VP choice?  Really?

I think if we'd gone back to 1 January of this year and stated that the VP was going to be Carly.....half of the Cruz voters would have backed up.....done some more calculating.....and eventually thirty-percent of the Cruz crowd would have shifted to someone else.

Carly is the one with a judgement issue (the maturity of a 15-year-old girl).  Carly is the one with leadership issues demonstrated while a CEO.  Carly is the one who makes some rash statements that infuriate the general public.

There are ten primaries left at this point.  The two key ones?  California and New Jersey.

Did Ted improve any of his odds in the ten states left?  Maybe in California....he bumped it up another five points.  Will this force Donald to pick a VP candidate now?  Maybe.

Personally, I can't think of a single occasion over the past hundred years where someone did something like this.  But that's how crazy the 2016 primary period has become.

Monday, 25 April 2016

154 Hours....Without Sleep?

I sat this afternoon....reading a piece from the London Telegraph on Prince and his death.  Someone close to the guy noted that the evening in questions (his last evening alive).....he'd gone apparently 154 hours straight (6.5 days).....without sleep.

You typically can only do this....with the aide of drugs and caffeine.

There were a couple of occasions in the 1978/1979 time frame, where I went forty-odd hours straight.  Over the past decade, I've even done a couple of periods of eight hours of sleep total over a three day period.

Last year, my local regional German network (HR) did a piece where their junior reporter attempted to go 72 hours without any sleep at all.  Concentration-wise, she was pretty much screwed up by the 48th hour.

My guess is that Prince got hyped up on some medication....added more medication to the normal supplement, and just kept cruising.  No one was standing there to stop him, and he finally just collapsed.  Kind of a stupid way to go, but these days...you can buy whatever you desire.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Why is Africa so poor while Europe and North America are so wealthy?

The Washington Post did an article entitled: "Why is Africa so poor while Europe and North America are so wealthy?"

The thrust of this article (by Andrew Gelman) talks of a published paper from a couple of years ago by two economic professors (Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor).  Their line of thought?  Mostly a discussion over poverty and genetics.

Gelman (the Post's writer) has one beef with the published paper.....mostly over the statistics involved.

I'm not a rocket scientist but for years have read, studied and admired three general characteristics of Europeans....which translated over into the American environment.

First, craftsmanship started out over 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome to be a big deal.  If you were the local guy who built aquaducts or stone buildings.....you had some reputation, and were called upon for projects on a regular basis.  You don't see craftsmanship in Africa.

Second, as people traveled into Europe (in the beginning) and into America (in the beginning)....they had more or less nothing, and had to build to survive.  This attitude....is something that has prevailed over the past several thousand years.  For those who stalled and stayed in 'safe' Africa....they just kept waiting for something to come and change things.  The only things to come?  People from America or Europe?  That probably was a signal that the old attitude was screwed-up.

Third, innovation.  You walk around England, Italy, Netherlands, or Germany.....and ask what folks are doing in their garage or factory lab, and they just stand there and grin.  Huns has some fancy wipers that have a sensor to notice raindrops on the surface of the windshield.  Robert has some fancy wine that took twenty years to develop but it's got X, Y and Z. Zino has a fancy new ice cream that is actually healthy and nutritional that he has developed.  You go and look at the past five hundred years of Africa, and ask where innovation has been.....and they just look at you.  There's not much to talk about or brag about.

I don't condemn the Africans or the various tribes who've gone through various dramatic stages of war and peace....to find themselves mostly waiting for the next round of war and peace to occur.  It's just that if you wanted to advance or establish some level of security or wealth....you'd have to establish a craftsmanship trail, build onto something, and advance the idea of innovation and trade.  Otherwise, you stay where you are.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Tubman $20

Somewhere in the next ten years.....the Jackson $20 will be retired, and the Tubman $20 will be issued.

There are three trains of thought to this.  One....we continually need to upgrade bills and make them tamper-proof.....counterfeit-proof, so it's time to move on.  Second, we should recognize other people besides political figures.  Some would argue that we need to recognize people of color or ethnic origin as well.  Third, we need to do this.....just to be different (it's a sad admission, but this is America).

Here's the thing about getting upset over this whole thing.  The odds are heavily stacked that the Tubman $20 will be around for five to seven years max.  We will have accepted change, and be easily persuaded within three years that Tubman has been on the $20 long-enough.....so let's move onto the next person.....some NCAA football coach or WW II general.

My gut feeling is that this will open the door and make it simple to accept continual changes to the $20 bill.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

My Too Many Guns Essay

“When it comes to guns? We have just too many guns,  On the streets, in our homes, in our neighborhoods.”

-- Former Senator Hillary Clinton, 21 Apr 2016

Basically, she says that there's just too many guns, and we need to lessen the number.

Then she just leaves it at that.....letting the audience applause and news people wept tears from their eyes.

So the percentage to cut back?  One-percent?  Three-percent?  Nine-percent?  Eleven-percent?

Generally, if you draw a hundred gun-owners into a forum, and you ask each.....not counting their military-related time.....how many of them had ever shot someone....you'd probably have one guy stand up.  He'd ever be a law-enforcement guy, or just some unlucky soul who had some punk kid advancing at him at some quick-and-stop gas station with a gun in his hand.  The other ninety-nine folks will just nod, and note that they've never had to fire on anyone.....YET.

I grew up in a rural area of Alabama and if you asked a hundred farmers about their gun situation.....all of them will say that they've got some type of weapon on the farm.  It might be one single shotgun, or just a pistol they keep in the kitchen cabinet.  Most will respond that they might have used a gun two or three times to shoot coyotes on their farm, or some pack of wild-dogs.

My general suggestion for Hillary is to make this kinda interesting and offer a $400 tax-credit for anyone who goes down to the local county sheriff and turns in a weapon of any sort.  Five weapons.....five $400 tax-credits.   Naturally, no one will comment much on this, but these might be old guns which weren't really operational, and the $2,000 will be used to buy a new rifle and maybe take the wife to some Vegas casino for her birthday.

Oddly, after endearing almost eight years of the Obama presidency.....we can be fairly confident that there are probably ten-percent more guns in America today.....than there were in 2008.  Why?  That would be a good question to ask the president.  I'm guessing he'd prefer not to answer that.

One might eventually get to the other questions of importance.....is there too much beer in America?  Is there too much whiskey?  Are there too many bars?  Are there too many sluts in America?  Are there too many snakes in the country?  Are there too many obese or fat people in America?  Are there too many mentally insane people in America.  If numbers matter.....maybe we ought to talk about a lot of topics with the gun subject.

I'm guessing that might scare folks.....we might actually get to the one difficult subject to handle......do we have too many politicians in America?  And what would you do.....to get rid of them?

The Truth About Truth Commissions

Truth Commissions:  a device or gimmick....which is appointed to a job or task, with discovering and uncovering past wrongs by a government or event, with the ultimate goal of being resolution and preventing future events of a similar circumstance.

Various governments (the US, Mexico, El Salvador, South Africa, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc) have used the instrument to give the public an image of straight information.  Sometimes it works.....in a few cases, it fails.

For the US, one of the better examples of a truth commission is the Warren Commission, which took ten months to produce a 888-page report that said that Oswald acted alone and put the public at rest.

Another example....sadly....is the 9-11 Commission, which eventually put the settled upon the end conclusion that Al Qaeda acted upon the event without any sponsorship.  The blame was settled upon bad security practices at the airports, terrorism, and Ossama bin Laden.....oh, and the evil regime of Saddam Hussen was more or less added into this mix of issues.

After last week's revelation of Saudi private citizen sponsorship of the 9-11 act.....there's a lot of pressure building for the 28 pages of classified material to be released and better understand the actual sponsors of 9-11 terrorists themselves.  The value of the 9-11 report?  Pretty zero at this point.

This brings me back to the Oswald episode and the Warren Commission.  If the 9-11 report was to persuade Americans not to blame anyone or go any further....you have to wonder about the Warren Commission.  Did the mafia play a part in Oswald being there and getting the blame?  Was Oswald supposed to be shot in the theater, and the cop got shot instead?  Did Jack Ruby do the job to clean up the mess for the Mafia?

This is the problem with truth commissions.....they serve more to put the public at rest....rather than settle upon the truth.

My suspicion is that the 28 pages of secret information on the Saudis will be dragged out by some hacker, and the public will be infuriated by both Bush and Obama....demanding something be done about the Saudis.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

An Essay on Car Wisdom

After thirty-odd years of being associated around military people, bases, and posts.....I can say with certainty that I've probably had about 25,000 conversations with colleagues, associates, co-workers, and friends on the subject of cars.

It's an odd thing being in the military because it's lab of sorts for car experiences, brilliant deals, sorrows, and lost passion about a 'wonder-car'.  People will come to work and lay out their soul on some loser car that their wife wants to dump and they just don't want to pull the trigger.  Some people are search of an absolute fix which must not extend past $400.  I've probably conducted 1,500 discussions just on junkers and how to buy junker.  So, here is my ten bits of wisdom.

1.  When to buy a car.  (1) Anytime. (2) When junker #16 dies finally. (3) Tomorrow.   To be truthful.....any of these will work.

I worked with a contractor and a Captain in my office once.  The Captain came back from the Orderly Room one day, with an assignment in his hands....to some Pacific Island where there's only leaded gas.  He had just bought a brand-new Volvo for thirty-five thousand and had barely 2,000 miles on the car.  I asked him what he would do with the car, and he just shook his head.  My contractor asked if there was a price attached to the car, and the Captain realized he might have a buyer.  So he spent five minutes analyzing his purchase price, the Blue-Book value, and came to a buyer's price-minus eight-percent.  With roughly three months of ownership, it made some sense.  You have to remember, this is one hour after getting an assignment, and selling the car wasn't on your mind at 7AM this morning.  The contractor went and looked over the car, drove it around, called his wife, and concluded the deal.  To be honest....he didn't need the car but it was a deal he could not pass up.

I put a value on a regular car of X-amount, and if over a year.....you've spent more than a quarter of that cost on anything beyond the tires, lights, or battery.....it's time to put the car up for replacement.

2.  Fixing the old car.  Once you reach stage two of this.....you need to clean your old car....making it absolutely tidy.  Wax it.  Shine it.

If you know someone who has a steam-cleaner....have the engine steam-cleaned ($50 for a cheap decent cleaning).  If you get some quote of $150...that's for the special detail job and it's typically a waste of money unless you got a really oily engine.

The clean-up and steam job?  It ought to add $150 onto the value of the car.

3.  Research.  Ok, why are you dumping the old vehicle, and what lesson did you learn from that ownership?  Is gas mileage important?  Do you want more reliability?  Do you want more room for the kids?

You need to know the value of your vehicle (low-medium-high), and you need an idea about your next vehicle (low-medium-high).  Write the facts down.

4.  The condition of the next vehicle.  Most folks like a used vehicle....two or three years old....unless they've got extra money for a new one or no money....in which case....they are looking for a $5,000 replacement car.

Has the new vehicle been in an accident?  You can buy these reports now which tell you that little bit of information.

5.  This reliability game.  Some cars are maintenance "whores".....they bleed you year after year....$500 here, $200 there, and you just stand there and take it.  So doing the research matters.

Honda, VW, Mercedes, and Audi all have great reliability numbers.  Hyundai has climbed up in the past decade and become a reliable maker of cars.  Ford has regained some of it's reputation.  Nissan?  Avoid.  Chrysler?  Avoid.  Dodge?  Avoid.  GM?  Avoid.  Suburu?  Avoid.  Jeep?  Avoid.

The thing on statistical averages is that if you are buying a two to four year old car.....it's probably got a year or two where nothing bad will happen, and around year four.....you start to get back into real repairs again.  So, the averages play better with Honda than most other brands.....at least on reliability.

6.  How much to spend?  How much do you have?  You can spend $8,000 and get a pretty decent car.  You can spend $20,000 and get a lousy car.  It's all up to you and your master-plan.

7.  Extras.  Some extras are worth the money......most aren't.  Some people like the heated seat business......some don't.  Don't anticipate that the extras will matter in five years or add value to the car.

8.  The color.  There are seven or eight regular colors to pick from.  Typically.....on reselling.....weird colors subtract value (dark green, purple, etc).  If you pick some weird orange color.....and in six years come to sell it.....don't be surprised if the guy offers you $500 less because it's just not a color that he can market or resell.

9.  Buy from a reputable dealer.  If you see some great deal on Ebay, and the guy wants to sell a Corvette for $2,000.....there's probably something wrong with the VIN number business or some illegal activity underway.

10.  Never refer to a vehicle as your dream vehicle.  It'll become some boat-anchor and a problem later when it starts to go south and be a problem.  It's just a vehicle....not some wife, kid or pet.  You can let go of it easier later.

Loser Car Number One And Two

I owned two loser cars in my life.  Both have stories, and this is over car number one.

Somewhere around 1993 (Feb, I think), my wife needed a car.  I talked into buying a $1,000 car from the base 'for-sale' lot.  It was a 12-year old VW Rabbit.  There was some rust but overall, it was decent deal.....I thought.

The first issue occurred three weeks after the purchase.  She'd taken the kid and driven to Trier (a 20-mile ride), and discovered while pulling into a parking lot....that the brakes were gone.  Absolutely gone.  Somehow, she brought the car to a stop, and was able to call me.  I came down with the good car.  The brake cylinder was 'gone'.  If you pushed the brakes absolutely to the floor, you could get 20-percent of the braking value.  I made the silly decision of driving the car back to Bitburg (that was really stupid but somehow I made it), while she drove the good car.

All total to fix it at the base garage?  Roughly $600.

Six weeks would pass and a radiator issue occurred.  A hole, to be precise.  I had a cheapo mechanic that I found....that would put a new radiator into it.....from some non-official source.  That was roughly $200.  Later, I would figure out that this replacement radiator was used.

At this point, there was bad karma with the car and my wife refused to drive the VW, and took my car instead.

Two weeks would pass, and then I'd have these carburetor issues.  With a two-hundred dollar visit to the mechanic.....he said there was rust in the gas tank.  He put a extra filter between the tank and the carburetor, and gave me two spare filters.  He simply said.....I might need the spares.

Two weeks would pass after that, and I had to put in the next filter....because of clogging issues.

By the 5th month, I had a flat tire.  I was lucky.....that was only $25 for a brand new tire.

Over the course of June, July and August.....I had it towed to the base garage twice....because of clogging issues related to the rust.

By October, the mechanic at the garage suggested that I go and get a used tank off some junker and just replace the whole thing.  I wasted three hours looking for the right model, but the junk guy discussed the matter with me and suggested this was all a wasted effort.

In November.....I added up the whole year in cost for a $1,000 car.....I'd spent near $1,800 in various expenses for this junker.  I had violated one of the prime rules of when to dump a junker.

My boss was leaving in December and talked me into buying his car.  The deal was $200 for the car and a satellite receiver.  The receiver was worth $125, so you can guess the actual value of this Mercedes I was buying.  It had sat in a barn for six years.....had loads of rust on the right fender....but was a 12-year old luxury model Mercedes.  I dumped my VW at the base junk yard and felt happy with the new junker.

From the interior prospective, this was the dream car.  Big, bulky, automatic, tons of power, and you could cruise the autobahn at 160 kph (110 mph) easily.  The trunk was big enough to cram 40 cases of beer (my best estimate).  The seats were the million-dollar seats that you dream of.....and the engine barely made any real noise at high speeds.

The issue in the beginning?  The inspection of the vehicle.  You see....when I say rust on the fender....it's not a little bit.....it's MASSIVE. So I spent almost $300 on a whole new fender, which was unpainted and just tossed on in 16 minutes by some mechanic for cash.  The inspection went great and I was given two more years on the vehicle.  I felt happy.

For five months, I drove the ugly green colored "Beast".  I was happy.....no maintenance issues.

Then one day.....a slight thump-thump-thump noise occurred.  My new mechanic in Ramstein looked at it....cracked axle.  If I could find a junker axle at the yard.....he'd do the job for $600.  I just shook my head....it made no sense.  I loved the car and probably would have kept it for five years but I wasn't going to violate the quarter of the value for repairs in one year rule again.  So, I dumped the Mercedes at the local junk yard (I had to actually pay them $25 to take it).

Oddly, these are the only two losers that I've come to own in my life.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Losers for Leaders

It came out in full force yesterday.....there's been this bill drifting around the Senate and House concerning legal matters and allowing Americans or the government to sue the people who finance terrorism.  What it really concerns is 9-11, and 28 lousy pages of heavily classified material (still highly secret today) and what the commission discovered in the year after 9-11.....that private individuals and perhaps members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia helped to finance the terror attack.

This bill....drafted by a Republican and Democratic senator....had broad appeal from both sides of the aisle.

About a month ago....the Saudi Secretary of State arrived in DC,and laid down the "law" on President Obama.  He has to stop the bill from being passed.  If he doesn't.....Saudi Arabia will sell 750 billion dollars of US treasury notes....dumping them on the market.....and send the US into a tailspin.  My humble guess is that it'd take six months of massive economic issues to recover from this dumping of the notes.  I should note as well.....while the first wave of sales might get 100-percent value for the notes....as hours and days go by....each wave will be of less value.  Somewhere around the 500-billion point....it'll be a half-price sale.....maybe even less.  The Saudis by the end of their great sale.....my guess is that they will hold 400 billion of what was a billfold worth 750-billion before.  For them, it's a massive loss.

So you turn and start asking stupid questions.

Did Bush, Cheney and company know that the Saudis (private citizens) were behind 9-11?  If so, why both messing with Iraq, or starting the Iraq war?

Did President Obama, and VP Biden know of the situation.....the 28 page document, and do nothing?

Since 9-11, and the lack of action against the Saudi sponsors.....did various US political figures (Bush in his re-election, John Kerry, Senator Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other Senators and House members) get cash contributions to ensure that they'd stay with the "keep quiet" stance?

These punk Saudis who financed bits and pieces of 9-11.....what exactly have they been doing the past decade?  Did they finance ISIS?  Did they finance various campaigns in Europe?  Have they caused hundreds and thousands of deaths?

What news groups are paid by Saudi lobbyists?

With the threat to sell US treasury notes by Saudi Arabia....what idiot as President would treat them as a "friend"?

If President Obama refuses to release the 28-page document, what does it say about his legacy...if the next guy releases it?

All of this leads back to two big negative feelings.  Bush and company were so close to the Saudi government, that they refused to identify the true culprits of 9-11, and we are being threatened with economic destruction by the Saudi government.

The reality is.....we have losers for leaders.  And it leaves a pretty bad taste in your mouth.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

'Free College'?

In recent days, there's been a fair amount of chatter on "free college".  Basically, the idea goes with a number of groups hoping to influence the Democratic Party and make at least the first two years of college "free".

The cost?  It differs depending on who you hear the talk.  The best I could tell is that it's in the plus-up range of 65 billion dollars.

There are five essential problems with this idea.

1.  There are hundreds of thousands of kids today....enrolled in some program and getting a marginalized certificate, and the best they can do with this is be the shift manager of some car rental shop at the local airport.  It's a job that used to be run by a guy from 1960s who graduated with a high school diploma (that's it....nothing else).  So the kid is now making $28,000 a year as the shift manager, and the value of the two-year degree they attained?  Mostly worthless.  But they've convinced themselves that this was the only way ahead.

You have to ask yourself if you want to really pay for an education for some kid who simply has a certificate of two years of college and it doesn't really mean much or have sufficient value for the funds exhausted.

2.  If we were talking about a two year period where you went through nursing school and really had value in the world of economics, then this would be a great idea.  But that's maybe three-percent of the crowd in some higher education program.  The rest of these professions?  They are of limited or marginal value.

Do we really need a bunch of kids jumping into business school for two years?  Do we really need to fund a number of kids on some social lifestyle education deal for two years?

3.  A number of research organizations have reported in the past decade on the kids wrapping up high school and not being prepared or capable of handling college.  How would we handle this issue?  Add a whole extra year of college prep to get such-and-such kid ready for his free two years of college?

4.This unfairness of cost across the spectrum, where college tuition at X-public community college is $3,000 and one state away, the Y-public community college is $4,100.  Or how about public four-year university A where one single year of tuition is $9,000 and one state away you have university B where the single year of tuition is $11,500.  What if the kid who sits in Maryland wants his free education in California?

5.  If you led off with the talk of free college for two years.....you can imagine the talk within four years.....of four years, or six, or eight.....all being free.  Why limit freeness?

My suggestion?  Open high schools up to the simplicity of wrapping up your high school situation by the end of the tenth-grade and a test.  If you pass.....you exit high school and proceed on.  In this case....you offer any kid who leaves with a certificate with two years of free community college in the local area.  If they test out in the 11th-grade?  Fine....one year of free community college.  You'd have a chance to downsize most high schools and get kids interested in the idea of achieving more and saving the state some money.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Alignment Image

Last year, I went on vacation to Athens, Greece.

At some point, I'm up around one of those 2,000 year old buildings, and sizing up the column there.

I stood there for a good five minutes....looking at this 'wobble' on the column, and I seriously wanted to fix it.  But you know how the rules are...."don't touch".

If you were to build something these days and it was this far out of alignment.....you'd freak out and some county safety inspector would come out and cite you for something.

My guess is that one day....with the right wind and some Alabama guy visiting and leaning against it....it'll wobble enough to fall, and all heck will break loose.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Analysis and Conclusion Skills

The University of Stanford held an election of sorts on a ballot measure.

For the purpose of this conversation, it should be noted.....it's a private college with about 16,000 students.

The discussion here is about the mandatory or non-mandatory status of a class for students in the university......Western Civilization.

The vote?  Well.....6 to 1 against requiring it.

The purpose of Western Civilization as a class?

It's a basic and mostly structured class that goes through the Greek world, onto ancient Rome, and goes into European development over the past 2,000 years.

Typically, a lecture guy will cover the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment.  There will be some chat over what happened in the Industrial Revolution, and how science charged up societies across Europe.

Christian society, Catholic society, and Muslim society would be discussed.

At the end of this.....you would stand there with a lot of information and probably more questions than answers.  From the prospective of your specialized area (medicine, science, art, engineering, economics, or politics)....this provides you with a fair amount of analysis and gives you some skills to determine on what results will come out of a society shift or change.

For me?  I was at two major colleges which never required Western Civilization.  In fact, one of the.....a year into my connection to them....wanted to force me into an all-Saturday course (worthless in nature) on library science.

I never got a single dose of Greek  or Roman culture, the Renaissance or Enlightenment.  Most of what I have today is from my readings over the past four years....from forty-odd books.  Toss in two dozen trips across Europe to various sites and I've picked up a lot of bits and pieces.....probably more than any professor could ever deliver.

If you ask me....it might be helpful to know where you came from and how you got to this point in life....no matter what your field of study is about.  And maybe along the way.....you might realize that there's a lot of powerful stuff involved in life today, which came from lousy or great decisions of the past.

The Most Unlikely Convention of All Time

This is one of those history essays that I occasionally write.  It concerns a primary and a convention....where the least likely guy came to be the convention winner, and eventually President.

In the summer of 1918....most people were seriously disenchanted with President Wilson.  A fair number of Republicans felt that Teddy Roosevelt would actually attempt to run again.  Never mind the fact that Roosevelt's ill-fated 1912 election against President Taft (a personal friend prior to the election) and Wilson....resulted in Wilson winning the election in a fairly easy manner.  Among the big VIPs of the Republican Party....more than a few had a dislike of Roosevelt and what he'd done to the Party.

But, in January of 1919....Roosevelt passed away at age 60.  Chief cause?  It probably goes back to the 1913-1914 Amazon trip where he ended up with Malaria, and got fairly weak.  There is some suggestion that he reached a point where he didn't think he'd survive. After he came back from this trip....he never really gained 100-percent health like he had prior to this.  When the war started in early 1917....Roosevelt was given permission by Congress to form four divisions, and was going to get some military title.  Wilson realized the impact of a US military operation successfully returning from France in the future, with a hero-like figure like Roosevelt.....so that idea got tossed, and Pershing was put in charge.

With Roosevelt out of the picture.....Warren G. Harding decided to run.  He'd had a successful term as Senator from Ohio and thought he might be able to get picked up.

The entire primary season?  One single state victory (Ohio).  Five other GOP figures did better, with General Pershing himself as the seventh-man in this primary season.

You would have approached the Republican Convention and thought that Hiram Johnson, Gen Leonard Wood, and Frank Lowden were fixed and this was a convention about them, not a sixth-place runner.

Neither Johnson or Wood had enough votes going into the Convention to avoid the open debate.

Harding's speech theme?  "America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy......not revolution, but restoration.....not agitation, but adjustment......not surgery, but serenity......not the dramatic, but the dispassionate......not experiment, but equipoise......not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality".

It should be noted that Harding delivered a number of speeches which sounded good on paper, but after getting to the Presidency....a number of folks commented that nothing about the speeches made much sense other than having a catchy rhyme.

After a week of bickering and discussions....at some point around 2AM on a Friday morning....Harding's name came up.  When people talk about smoke-filled rooms where crazy ideas are thrown around, and alcohol might be present to influence one's mind.....this is one of those situations.

Oddly, the insider guys at the top of the GOP knew about the one single extramarital affair, and worked this out with a payment to the 'lady' and her husband.

So by late afternoon, it was a done deal..

I suspect that Harding fond hope back in 1919 was that he might be the VP or get some cabinet post out of this deal.  He was a newspaper publisher-turned-GOP enthusiast.

Anger and hostility about the outcome?  Few talk about it but you have to imagine that at least three candidates out of the primary period just shook their heads after the smoke cleared and Harding had passed all three.

The curious end to this story?  Harding was lousy at picking cabinet officers and brought some of the most corrupt individuals in US history into the administration.  Taking office in 1921.....it barely took two years for him to figure out how bad the situation was, and added to it.....his health was lousy.  He passed away in August of 1923....2.5 years into the administration.  Had he lived on?  There would have been a likely impeachment process, or he would have been voted out by the Republicans in the 1924 election.

If you used this measure for 2016?  Jeb Bush or Carly Fiorina might be picked.  That's how crazy this open convention business might go.  For Cruz to think he'll get the pick in such a convention.....it'll never happen unless he's got the enough votes to win in the first round.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Other Side of the Panama Papers

I spent three years of my life in Panama.  When I sit and watch the business ne over the ws and this 'Panama-papers' thing comes up.....I mostly just grin.

From 1881 to 1894.....for thirteen lousy years, the French tried to build their version of the Panama Canal....with no locks....just a canal straight through.

At the time, it was all still part of Columbia, and fairly undeveloped.  No one ever does analysis over the population of this area of Columbia....but at the time, I would take a humble guess that there weren't more than 300,000 people in the region (today's population is around 3.9 million).

Tens of thousands arrived and were part of the French effort, and some fell into the background of bars, stores, and 'support'.  After the French episode came to a miserable failure.....a fair number of folks left, and the ones remaining.....were left with a marginal business atmosphere.

You see....most of what Panama does....at least for the past hundred years.....is grow bananas and some fruit.....herd some cattle for global beef markets....and carry out a limited tourism situation.

When the Americans came along in 1903 with their ideas for the canal.....they wanted to settle up with a long-term deal.....yearly cash for the permission to build....and sovereignty over the 'zone'.  The treaty (Hay-Bunau-Varilla) that came along?  It was only after Columbia turned down the original deal, and the US decided to stage or help a rebellion in Panama.  When the rebellion was finished....they quietly went to the political figures of the newly formed Panama and did the deal.

No, it was never a territory or state or district.  It was a zone....run with US laws in place.

I doubt if the locals had much confidence in the Americans....as the French had failed and spent millions locally, and now the Americans would repeat the whole episode.

But the Americans went with the three-lock concept, and built an entire American city along the canal.  They built their own lake and hydroelectric plant.....put in housing for canal employees (all Americans in the beginning).....and put in military ports and airfields to ensure the safety and security of the zone.

By the 1914, Panamanians were kinda surprised.  The canal was finished and operational.  Everything worked mostly as designed.  Oh, there was water shortages which Madden Dam in the early 1930s was designed to prevent.

Big money flowing into Panama itself?  There was always money flowing into the country....just not big money.  Everyone was convinced by the 1960s that they should be getting some of the profits off the canal.  If you tried to explain to folks that the money collected by boats passing through.....covered just operating costs, and there was no profit, they wouldn't believe you.  Every time an upgrade was required for the canal....it came out of US tax revenue...NOT canal charges.

Riots by students and political charged-up events eventually brought about the Carter-Torrijos Treaty.  By the treaty, as 1999 came along, it'd all be Panama property.

When I arrived in 1986....my view of the Panama economy was more of comic relief than a legit country.

They still depended on beef export, fruit and vegetables, their under-the-table banking empire, a real estate situation where upper-class premium neighborhoods were built for rich VIPs who flew in for the safety and security of Panama, their flagged-ship empire, and some secret connection to the cocaine cartels.

In the 1988 time-frame....they had roughly two million people.  It's true.....there was a large segment of people in the middle-class and Panama-City itself had lots of growth.  But you just kept wondering where all this extra money was coming from.

There just wasn't a real industry in Panama....other than portraying the nation as some box where you could hide yourself or your money.

Around five years ago, I was reading a piece where this American lawyer had set up shop in Panama and was 'helping' clients.  He'd help you move your money, buy a condo, and set-up a credit card to charge your expenses as some fake company.

None of this was secret....like the news media portrays it now.  It was all factual and various state governments knew about it, and did nothing......mostly because they had lots of lobbyists talking up the positives of this.

When the President of Panama stood up this week and talked up some international banking group to help Panama fix all this business....he's simply asking for some fake talk, which helps to keep the underground banking establishment keep working in Panama.

The business economy of Panama?  It survives because everyone wants to look the other way and allow this little hidden box empire to continue....as is.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

My President Bernie Scenario

Maybe I'm wrong, but here is my Bernie-as-president scenario.

We reach the Republican convention in mid-July, without Trump having the necessary votes to win on the first ballot.

Somewhere between the first and second ballots.....some unknown Republican character emerges and in the blink of an eye....on the eye ballot....Trump and Cruz lose votes, and this unknown third-party wins the nomination.

There is shock and disbelief, with a third of the convention members packing up that night and flying out....being disgusted with the outcome and unable to sit there....or feel excited over the outcome.   Trump voters say that's it....they won't vote for this individual.....NOR will they vote for any Republican for the rest of their life.

Somewhere in the midst of this convention period, Hillary announces that charges will occur and she can't run for President.

The Democratic Convention starts on 25 July in Philly.  Bernie has a positive feeling at this point.  Oddly, another unknown character arrives, and suddenly around half of Hillary's voters flip over.  Bernie is charged up and angry, with half of Hillary's folks mad.  The first ballot doesn't get a winner, but by the second ballot....enough Bernie votes are found and he makes this miracle win.

News people, lobbyists and political figures are in utter shock.

As we go into November's election....Trump's people are furious and carry out their threat.  They vote massively for Bernie, and for Democrats across the board.

January arrives with President Bernie, sixty-one Democrats in the Senate, and a 62-percent Democratic House.

Bernie selects an extreme far-left judge for the empty Supreme Court position, and by mid-summer.....has replaced two additional Supreme Judges because of their health issues (one liberal and one conservative).  The two new ones are moderate liberals.  The stack of the court will be six liberals and three conservative.

By November, the Bernie administration will have decided to drop out of NATO, and to downsize the US military.

Even some of the old-time Democrats in the Senate aren't able to hold back this Bernie enthusiasm.

Journalists will be sitting there for the whole first year, in a state of confusion.  No one wants to talk politics anymore.  The Trump are hard-wired to vote against any Republican.  Various state legislatures went Democrat and there's talk that it might be ten years before recovery occurs.

Presently, I think both parties have a major problem and the public won't buy off on some weird convention outcome.

The Effect of the Republican Convention

There is this scenario underway that may concern some folks.  If we get to the Republican Convention and Trump doesn't have the votes to automatically win...it goes into the next round, and things may get hectic....with Cruz or possibly some other party winning the nomination.

How angry will Trump-voters be?  Angry enough to carry out the vow and not vote in November's election or vote Hillary.

The effect on the twenty-one Republican Senators running also in November?

Let's say that 35-percent of the normal Republican tally throughout the US are Trump-enthusiasts and carry out a threat to dump their votes on a straight ticket to the Democrats.  Of the twenty-one Republicans.....my humble guess is that a handful (maybe three) would have enough votes to survive, but the mass majority would fall.  The same is true for the House members as well.

So, here's this odd scenario in January of 2017, where a strong Democratic House (more than 55-percent) and a absolute majority of Democrats in the Senate (sixty-plus) would walk in and have President Hillary Clinton.

What might Hillary do with such a majority?  Unknown.  For two brief years, she'd have enormous potential to remake the government and carry out various actions with no significant worry.

The Republicans?  Hoping to rebuild in 2018 or 2020?  Forget about it.   That 35-percent Trump group would likely be permanent anti-Republican and it'd take at least a decade before the Republicans could rebuild their core.

Just How Stupid Can You Get Situation

There on Monday, at the Bloomington campus of Indiana University.....some student noticed some Catholic priest dressed in a white robe and a white rope-belt, and quickly identified the guy as a Ku Klux Klan member and carrying a whip.  Then the brilliant kid put out the message on social media that blazed across the campus in a matter of minutes.

So, then a hall manager put out an email warning students of a potential threat with the KKK wandering around,   Possible threat was uttered.

Folks are a bit peeved about how this quickly went out of control, and that it's fairly easy to recognize a Catholic priest in the white robe outfit.....well....it ought to be.  And the idea of identifying a rope-belt as a whip?  That takes a little bit of imagination.

What happens if some circus were to do a town-walk-through (like the old days) with live elephants, and goes near a university?  You'd have to expect some kid putting out an emergency message that wild elephants are roaming the campus.

I'm almost of the mind that college is too harsh of an atmosphere for 18-year old kids, and that you ought to mandate a kid be a minimum of twenty years old before he attends a university.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Revision of DC's Weed Law

It was one of those things that you'd predict.  The city of Washington DC.....has more or less blessed marijuana (medical or otherwise).

As time went by....people started to smoke weed in public settings.....more and more.  There was suggestions that even in pubs and nightclubs....weed was now being smoked with no hassle from the cops.

So, this week, the city council voted 7-6 (notice how close it was) to ban smoking weed in a public area or in any club/pub.  To make it an effective passage....they have to meet back up within a period of time and vote on this a second time.  No one is sure if the same seven folks will agree on the second time around.

What this creates?  If you were a serious marijuana smoker, who liked to smoke on the street, or in some city-park....up until this point, the cops couldn't touch you.  Now?  Well, there's some possibility that you might end up with a misdemeanor.  But what cop would waste his time on something so minor?

It's probably another reason to revert 75-percent of DC back to Maryland.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

My Wisdom and Advice to a Kid on the Way to College

It is spring and in a few weeks....kids will wrap up high school and make the fateful choice on college.  So my ten bits of advice.

1.  You will only be at college for four years....unless you go on for a masters, or really foul-up your first year and have to repeat.  Don't screw this up.  You can figure at a low-cost state college, that your dad or you....are tossing $15,000 a year for tuition, board, food, and gas-money.  At a regular up-scale state-school, you might be using up $28,000 a year.  If you think this is some social club, pub-drinking association, or lifestyles-orientation theater.....boy, you got screwed.

2.  You have basically two kinds of lecture-dopes or professors.  One that actually knows something and is willing to part with this knowledge.....or one who is a dimwit and just reads out of a book.  Do some research and ask stupid questions before concreting up your class schedule.  Once you find competent instructors.....stay with them.  Once you identify incompetent instructors.....let people know and avoid them at all costs.

3.  You'd best add up what this degree will cost and ask yourself how it relates to income levels and job opportunities.  If your degree is Russian literature, Japanese art, Civil War history, or volcano science......ask yourself where this is going lead and how the income works out.  Most Civil War buffs end up as park rangers, history teachers for high schools, or Air Force Intelligence Officers.  Throughout the entire US in one year.....there might be ten positions opening for Russian literature.  If you did something stupid and got a degree costing $80,000.....what's the value for the rest of your life?

4.  A bunch of dopes will try to hype up off-time for some diversity or fake cultural garbage.  If you got time to waste and you like fraudulent gimmicks.....fine.  If you stand and ask stupid questions and just get stupid answers.....maybe you ought to avoid the episode.  Just because some idiot says 'diversity matters'.....doesn't really mean that 'diversity matters'.

5.  Some people you bump into will be life-long friends.  Some will not.

6.  The idiots who designed campuses never meant for them to be easily figured out for a 'rookie'.  You'd best go spend a day or two prior to your classes starting, and get a decent road-map from the dorm to the classes.

7.  College isn't supposed to be some simple cake-walk where things make perfect sense.  It's built as a challenge.  Either accept that or walk away.

8  College isn't really designed as some theater production episode of Shakespeare.  Probably half the professors or instructors you bump into.....are a bit odd and half-way insane.  You might end up thinking this is kinda like an episode of Gilligan's Island.....where the Professor, the Skipper and Mr Howell offer daily bits of wisdom, and the rest are just there having fun.

9.  In twenty years, you will look back and regard all of this as some life experience, where you learned some things....forget most things....and feel shocked at how it paid off.

10.  In the end, you may finish up with only one real positive or understanding.....knowledge is only half the trick.  Applying it or manipulating it.....is the real pay-off.